A psychologist is a professionally trained mental health professional who helps patients navigate challenging life situations or mental health issues. To become a psychologist you must earn a doctoral degree; qualifying degrees include a Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D. To actively practice, a psychologist must be licensed in their state and maintain good standing. Psychologists are trained to administer tests that can evaluate a patient’s cognitive strength and weaknesses, intellectual skills, vocational aptitude and preference, personality characteristics, and neuropsychological functioning, explains the American Psychological Association (APA).
A psychologist meets with patients in an office and may work with a variety of methods, depending on patient need, such as cognitive, behavioral or interpersonal. According to the APA, common reasons a person may visit a psychologist include:
- Dealing with depression, anger or anxiety over a long period of time.
- Help with a chronic condition that is interfering with their lives or physical health.
- Help with grieving and other abrupt transitions.
- Overcoming addictions.
- Managing chronic illness.
- Breaking old and harmful patterns of thinking or behavior.
Psychologists are healthcare professionals who use scientific methods to understand the relationships between the brain, environment and behavior. Psychologists may focus on research — studying how the brain and various environments drive behaviors to better understand the issues that trouble patients and society as a whole — or they may focus on practice — interacting with people using therapeutic methods. The American Psychological Association shares some of the more prevalent types of psychologists:
- Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
- Cognitive and perceptual psychologists study human perception, thinking and memory.
- Community psychologists work to strengthen the abilities of communities, settings, organizations and broader social systems to meet people’s needs — such as improving support for victims of natural disasters, or working to improve health policies.
- Counseling psychologists help people understand and take action on everyday issues, career and work problems, and serious adversity.
- Developmental psychologists study the psychological development of the human being throughout life.
- Educational psychologists concentrate on how effective teaching and learning take place.
- Engineering psychologists conduct research on how people work best with machines.
- Environmental psychologists study the dynamics of how people interact with their environments.
- Evolutionary psychologists study how evolutionary principles such as mutation, adaptation and selective fitness influence human thought, feeling and behavior.
- Experimental psychologists study cognitive processes, comparative psychology (cross-species comparisons), and learning and conditioning.
- Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues.
- Health psychologists specialize in how biological, psychological and social factors affect health and illness.
- Industrial/organizational psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the workplace to improve productivity, health and the quality of work life.
- Neuropsychologists and behavioral neuropsychologists explore the relationships between brain systems and behavior.
- Quantitative and measurement psychologists focus on methods and techniques for designing experiments and analyzing psychological data.
- Rehabilitation psychologists work with stroke and accident victims, people with mental disabilities, and those with developmental disabilities caused by such conditions as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism.
- School psychologists assess and counsel students, consult with parents and school staff, and conduct behavioral interventions when appropriate.
- Social psychologists study how a person’s mental life and behavior are shaped by interactions with other people.
- Sport psychologists help athletes refine their focus on competition goals, become more motivated, and learn to deal with anxiety and fear of failure around competition.
A professional, accredited life coach works with people to help them make important changes in their life, either growing in their profession or changing gears in their personal lives. They help clients turn their dreams or wishes into realistic, attainable goals. They guide people through the process of making life changes by helping them evaluate the steps they must take to reach a particular goal, then help them decide how — and whether — to take those steps in the most efficient, effective and rewarding way possible. A life coach acts as a motivator, strategist and accountability partner. Unlike a therapist, a life coach doesn’t help solve problems from your past — they’re focused on helping you move forward with new ways of acting and thinking that will help you reach your goals. Some people specialize in particular types of life coaching, including life balancing coaches, small business coaches, executive coaches and personal finance coaches. Some meet clients in person, while others hold consultations over the phone.
Regardless of which type of life coach you’re interested in, make sure the person holds an International Coach Federation (ICF) credential. There are three tiers of credentials: Associate, Professional and Master, which require coaching experience ranging from 100 hours to 2,500 hours.
People of all ages and in all careers have called in a life coach. Life coaches are accredited professionals who can help you figure out the tangible changes you can make in your life to reach your goals; they can even help you turn your dreams into goals, if you’re not sure where to go next. A life coach can also help people find their purpose in life. Life coaching clients often have an idea of what they want to do, such as help people or work with animals, but don’t know how to turn that passion into a career. A life coach can help clients work through the options to find a clear path with concrete steps that lead to an attainable goal. A life coach can also help clients make a major career change, such as starting a new business. Life coaches can help clients develop better habits that will make them more successful, acting as an accountability partner. Life coaches also often guide their clients through major transitions in life, such as a career change or other stressful situations that are made easier with guidance from a neutral third party.
A life coach helps clients set and reach professional and personal goals, develop positive habits, and deal with stress. Some people meet with a life coach once or twice, while others form an ongoing professional relationship, meeting regularly in person or on the phone. The average national cost to meet with a life coach ranges from $80 to $130 an hour. Some coaches offer per-session pricing, especially for one-time meetings; expect to pay an average of $100-$125. People who want to work with a coach over a period of time to explore life transitions, career growth or lifestyle changes may be able to get discounted pricing in a package. For example, three 60-minute sessions cost an average of $300, four 60-minute sessions cost an average of $350, and four 60- to 90-minute sessions plus unlimited contact between sessions cost an average of $400. Some specific types of coaching, such as relationship or marriage coaching, cost more than standard life coaching. For instance, three 60-minute relationship coaching sessions cost an average of $500, four 60-minute sessions cost an average of $550, and six 60- to 90-minute sessions cost an average of $650 when purchased as a package. Training and experience can also affect the cost of hiring a life coach. An Associate Certified Coach, who holds a certification that requires only 60 hours of training and 100 hours of coaching experience, will charge less than a Master Certified Coach, who typically has at least 200 hours of training and 2,500 hours of coaching experience.